This may have been a Giants v. Padres game, but this game was pretty dang fun. There were some definite Giants v. Padres moments like the Padres coming back to tie it in the ninth, the combined five errors between the two teams, and the would-be go-ahead run not scoring because it hit Franmil Reyes on the foot. But parts of this game that were legitimately great like Madison Bumgarner getting a walk-off hit, Hunter Pence hitting a dinger, and Gregor Blanco’s double.
Somehow, Bruce Bochy went through his entire bench in 12 innings even though most of the people that were still in the ballpark were on the active roster. That left him with one person to bat for Mark Melancon: Madison Bumgarner. If someone other than Hunter Pence was going to get a walk-off hit in this game, it had to be Bumgarner. Literally every other option the shriveled walnut brain in the galaxy brain meme. Look at this celebration.
Easily the best part is Alen Hanson trying to dump some blood-colored sport drink on Bumgarner, and Bumgarner having absolutely none of it.
Madison Bumgarner is not interested in your Gatorade jug pic.twitter.com/s3wrUHlLwE— Carmen Kiew (@carmenkiew) September 26, 2018
Somehow, Hanson ended up with all of it on him.
It looked like he spilled some of it when Bumgarner pushed it, but I like to think that Hanson was there with just a jug of sport drink and with no one else to dump it on, he dumped it on himself.
Of course, Bumgarner’s walk-off isn’t possible if the Padres don’t come back in the ninth. If Will Smith blowing a save irked you just remember that the Diamondbacks also blew a ninth inning lead against the Dodgers.
You may be thinking, “That doesn’t make me feel any better. If anything, that makes me feel worse,” but that’s not all of the story. In the bottom of the ninth, Eduardo Escobar hit a walk-off homer prompting Kenta Maeda to make this face:
There’s no reaction to a home run that a pitcher can have that’s not at least a little funny. But this is at least a 70-grade reaction. 80-grade is Mat Latos giving up a grand slam and realizing that every choice he’s made as a person is wrong.
Arguably, the only thing that matters about the Padres series is that Hunter Pence does good things. Sure, it would be nice if Austin Slater got his slugging above his on-base percentage or if Abiatal Avelino got his first big league hit or if Chris Shaw hit a big, long dinger, but those things aren’t indicative of future success.
But these are likely the last memories we’ll create with Hunter Pence in a Giants uniforms unless the new GM is somehow even more enamored of veterans who are past their prime. Pence doesn’t have to hit a walk-off dinger or anything, though it would be very Giantsy of him to do that and adversely affect the Giants’ draft position. It’d be nice if he did things like hit bullets at infielders and score from first on a double. Twice. Which is what he did.
Oh, and he also hit a dinger.
This one didn’t bang off a scoreboard, but it did go into a tunnel, which is also fun. I always imagine a person coming up the tunnel with a plate full of nachos completely unawares of the projectile about to come in and ricochet about them like a pinball. In this fiction, maybe this person is an overbearing high school principal—the kind that would tell Pence to roll down his pant legs or to quit installing Runescape on the school computers—and they get nacho cheese all over their tweed. Then they make this face:
Pence did nothing if not remind us that baseball is supposed to be fun. It’s easy to forget when you watch the Giants and Padres face off for the 47th time this year. Him metaphorically dunking nacho cheese on an imagined principal is exactly the kind of fun that Pence provided us since day one.
Look at Pence coming into score on Gregor Blanco’s double. Look how fired up he is. Look how his joy infects everyone around him. Look at Blanco’s little shimmy. It’s adorable!
This time next week, there will be no Giants baseball for you to watch, and this moment proves that some baseball is better than no baseball.
Still, this game was still about four hours long, and if you managed to watch every single pitch of this game, I want to know what your secret is. I’ll be honest, I spent a lot of the first few innings scrolling through Baseball Prospectus leaderboards and thinking about what the Giants are going to do regarding their back-up catcher next year if García doesn’t earn the job out of spring training.
I’m personally hoping the new GM sells Sabean and Baer on a framing savant. Did you know that Nick Hundley is the second-worst catcher by framing runs at -13.2? Only Willson Contreras is worse at -17.8, and he’s caught 2,500 more pitches than Hundley. I knew Hundley isn’t a good framer, but that’s really bad!
Avelino did not get his first big-league hit, but he did nearly double his big-league at-bat total. He also looked a little rough defensively. He threw a ball in the dirt trying to turn a double play and he couldn’t come up with a line drive. The two defensive miscues contributed to the Padres’ big third inning, and sullied Chris Stratton’s final start of the season.
Avelino’s performance tonight doesn’t mean anything, but Bruce Bochy is portioning out his playing time like amuse-bouche. I want more, dang it.
Steven Chandler Okert* has still not allowed a run in 2018. He just has to make it through the weekend, and he’ll maintain his tie for the major league ERA lead with Pablo Sandoval and Chase d’Arnaud.
*Yes, that’s his real middle name, and no, Friends debuted three years after he was born.